Want to know the scariest three words in Broncos Country?

Is – Russ – cooked?

If the hair on the back of your neck just stood up, there’s a good chance you love the Denver Broncos. There’s a good chance you were dancing in the streets on March 8 when the rumors turned to fact: The Denver Broncos had traded for star quarterback Russell Wilson. There’s a high probability you offered a subtle and silent fist pump on Sept. 1 when it was announced that the Broncos had inked Wilson to the second-largest contract in NFL history, a quarter-billion-dollar deal that would ensure the Broncos had their franchise quarterback through 2028. Ten bucks says there’s a brand-new No. 3 jersey hanging in your closet.

But is there also a good chance those same hairs on the back of your neck are telling you something you don’t want to hear?

Is Russ cooked?

Past his prime? Overpaid, overrated, over the hill?

Is Russell Wilson just a younger, friendlier, cooler version of Joe Flacco? Is he Wild Thing in Major League II, having lost his fastball once fame and fortune and entered the picture? Is he the guy that Seattle didn’t want instead of the one that Denver did?

These are questions that nobody in Broncos Country wants to ask, not out loud anyway. Because with the Broncos sitting at 2-2 and looking more like a dumpster fire than a Super Bowl contender, the answers might not be what anyone wants to hear.

When No. 3 hopped on that private jet to Denver, the mantra was “Let Russ cook.” In other words, it was time to take off the shackles that ol’ gum-chompin’ Pete Carroll had so unfairly strapped to his underutilized, ultra-talented quarterback. Let Russ do what Russ can do. Let him spin it. No more of this boring old ball control offense he captained in Seattle.

Let. Russ. Cook.

Broncos GM George Paton was happy to let him. New and energetic coach, the offensive-minded guru Nathaniel Hackett was more than happy to let him. And fans in Denver – tortured souls who’d been forced to watch the likes of Trevor Siemian, Case Keesum (Remember him, John Elway?), Joe Flacco and Teddy Bridgewater – were thrilled to let Russ cook.

Since the Super Bowl season in 2015, anyone who quarterbacked the Broncos looked more a drunken college kid thawing out Hot Pockets at 3 a.m. than Gordon Ramsay. Russell Wilson is about to start slingin’ hash in our neighborhood?

“Sign us up!” said everyone tied to the Broncos.

But at the risk of carrying the analogy out one line too many, Wilson hasn’t exactly been serving up gourmet meals in Denver.

That’s a scary thought, because if Wilson is no longer, well, Russell Wilson, the Broncos are stuck. At present, there’s a decent chance that no NFL team would be willing to take Wilson off George Paton’s hands at his current price tag – not with the way the season has gone thus far. Scarier yet is the notion that the Broncos’ desperate search to find that ever-elusive franchise quarterback – like John Elway, like Peyton Manning – is far from over.

But if you’ve still got an appetite, here’s the good news.

(Sort of).

The Broncos kitchen is a mess. That’s not something you want to hear, either, but it’s more comforting than the idea that Wilson can’t play anymore. A team can be fixed. An old, broken-down quarterback cannot.

Wilson hasn’t looked good, but is it because he’s washed up? Or could it be that Joe Montana in his prime would have trouble looking good in Denver right about now?

Wilson and Hackett talked about a “partnership” early on, but Hackett’s incompetence looks more like hindrance than help.

People wonder if Wilson is afraid to tuck it away and run, afraid to take the hits that come along with being a dual-threat quarterback. On Sunday, he rushed for 29 yards and a touchdown on four carries – not exactly Lamar Jackson, but also not the stat line of someone who can no longer make plays with his feet. On the flip side, Wilson was sacked three times and hit four more; that’s the stat line of a quarterback whose offensive line isn’t exactly holding up their end of the bargain.

And speaking of holding, Holding No. 72 is back. Garett Bolles now leads the NFL in holding penalties (again), and the rest of his team is trying hard to keep pace. In fact, the Broncos now lead the NFL in total penalties – 37 of them to the tune of 286 yards – making it hard for any quarterback to keep on schedule. It’s hard to cook when the chef must keep starting over, especially in unfavorable down and distance situations.

In the Raiders game, Wilson’s run game deserted him, too. Bruising back Javonte Williams was not only finished for the game, but his knee injury will now keep him out for the entire season. His backup, Melvin Gordon, coughed up a typical, game-changing fumble, one that proved to be insurmountable. Nobody in Denver, including Wilson, can be confident in Gordon’s ability to carry the load. And while the play wasn’t a run, Wilson’s chance to keep things interesting late in the fourth quarter was squashed when third-string running back Mike Boone dropped a an easy pass that would have kept Denver’s drive alive.

Wilson’s statistics this season aren’t shiny. His current rating (91.1) and QBR (44.9) are the worst of his career, as is his 61.1 completion percentage. Then again, his 245.5 passing yards per game are right in line with any of his nine Pro Bowl seasons, where he posted 194, 210, 217, 251, 249, 215, 257, 263 and 222 respectively. In 2014, arguably Wilson’s best season, he rushed for an average of 7.2 yards per carry on 7.4 attempts per game. This season, he’s averaging 3.9 on 3.3. Against the Raiders his 7.2-yard rushing average on four carries suggests that what he’s had isn’t lost, it might just need rediscovered.

If Wilson is cooked, so are the Broncos.

But he’s not. Not yet. The more likely scenario is that Wilson could be the only thing keeping the Broncos from looking like a complete and utter disaster.

At 2-2, there’s still plenty of time to right the ship, still plenty of time to straighten up the kitchen so that Russ can cook.